University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus assumed the role of chairperson of the board for 2020. Regent Paul Kenney of Amherst was elected vice chairperson.
Pillen, who represents District 3 on the Board, was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2018. He served as vice chairperson in 2019.
Pillen grew up on a farm in Platte County, where he raised pigs with his father. He graduated from Lakeview High School, then earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University. He formed Pillen Family Farms in 1993, a pork producer that engages approximately 1,000 families and has evolved into its own grain merchandising and swine genetics company.
Pillen’s community involvement includes service at the Columbus Family YMCA, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Archdiocese Ignite the Faith campaign, TeamMates mentoring program and the Columbus Community Hospital. He currently serves as a governor on the Aksarben Foundation, a Nebraska Medicine board member, a Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry board member and board chair for the TeamMates Mentoring Foundation.
He and his wife, Suzanne, have four children and seven grandchildren.
“I’m humbled to have the opportunity to serve our great University in this role,” Pillen said. “This is a special time in our history, and we on the board can’t wait to see what the year ahead will bring. We think President (Ted) Carter is spot-on in pledging to make the success of our 51,000 students our highest priority. We will do all we can to serve our students, to develop clear expectations for our future and to support President Carter and the chancellors as they expand the work and impact of our university even further.”
Kenney, an agri-businessman, farmer and rancher from Amherst, earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. His farming operation is a homesteaded farm that has been passed down through his family for more than 100 years.
Kenney is a longtime member of the Amherst Public School Board, a former president of the Kearney Area Ag Producers Alliance, a volunteer fireman and a past board member of the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce. He has been president of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute and has been honored as Farmer of the Year by the Kearney Kiwanis club.
He and his wife, Angie, have four sons and six grandchildren